Former Brown County employee accuses county judge and attorney of retaliation
BROWNWOOD, Texas —
A former Brown County Courthouse employee says she was retaliated against by two top county officials after speaking up about corruption.
Crystal Molina worked at the Brown County Elections Office for two and a half years before getting fired in September of 2010. The following year she was prosecuted by Brown County Attorney Shane Britton for a theft of public servant charge.
"I do feel because I spoke up and because I did call attention to certain issues that were going on that I did make certain people angry and they did retaliate against me," Molina said.
Molina said she was fired after reporting financial discrepancies in the Election Office's budget to the Texas Secretary of State and Attorney General's offices. She claims she was accused of theft only after she submitted those complaints to both state agencies.
"For two years I was in and out of court every single month, just fighting that charge so I wouldn't have to go to jail," Molina said.
Then-Sheriff Bobby Grubbs wrote a letter to Britton in 2013 requesting he drop the charge because "there is absolutely no foundation for a theft charge that could be drawn from our investigation alone."
A special prosecutor was appointed to Molina's case and he dismissed her charge in the fall of 2013, according to court documents.
That same year, Molina filed civil suit in federal court against Britton and Brown County Judge Ray West, but the federal judge representing the Northern District of Texas tossed it out for several reasons, including not meeting the statutes of limitations.
Former Brown County Chief Deputy Bobby Duvall said Molina's prosecution by Britton was an example of an “extreme abuse of power.”
"She was a witness to unlawful activity by the county judge and county attorney," Duvall said. "Shortly after it's discovered that she's a witness, she's prosecuted for the theft of $60."
Duvall said Molina was a key witness at the time in a corruption investigation by the AG's office into Britton and West.
But Judge West described Molina as a disgruntled employee.
KTXS asked West whether he knew Molina was a witness in the AG’s investigation against himself and Britton.
"I didn't find out she was a key witness until you just said that," West said. "I don't know anything about her being a witness to anything."
Instead, West believes this is an attempt to smear his name before the March primaries. West is running for re-election as Brown County Judge, a position he's held since 1992.
Britton has not responded to a request made by KTXS for comment.